Islanders facing looming proposals for a solar farm the size of 22 football pitches fear their concerns have fallen on deaf ears. 

Great Cumbrae could see 12,000 solar panels at a site at the top of the island if plans are approved next week. 

However, residents fear the development would blight one of the island's main "beauty spots" as well as possibly impact the wildlife present there.

After the consultation period ended, developers Comsol submitted a 17-page report which they described as a "rebuttal" to the concerns raised by the Cumbrae Community Council.

Artist and qualified architect Dr Gregor Harvie, who lives on the island, advises the Cumbrae Community Council on planning matters. 

"The applicant has been pursuing this proposal for seven years, so they have had ample time to engage with the community and tackle our concerns, but they have made no genuine attempt to do that," he said. 

"They haven’t particularly taken on board our concerns; they have just refuted all of them.

"They have basically said 'we’re right and you’re wrong', which isn’t the kind of constructive dialogue that we would have hoped for."

There are also many questions still left “unanswered” about the development, including how the small island would benefit.

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While developers stated they had carried out “full and robust assessment of protected species”, the community council called it “inadequate”.

The survey by the applicant, carried out on a single day during winter, identified a single protected bird species – dunlin.

Community members have registered sightings of at least 20 endangered species with the RSPB, including greenfinches, skylarks, lapwings and wheatears.

A 5MW scheme was first proposed by Comsol Energy Limited in 2016 but was not built.

Another application submitted in July 2022 provoked the submission of 263 comments to North Ayrshire Council - of which 96% were objections. The application was withdrawn by Comsol Energy Limited.

The latest application, which is due to see a decision by council planners next week, would include battery energy storage systems and a total output of 19MW.

While the community council questioned why such an extensive document was submitted after the public could no longer respond to the plans, North Ayrshire council said such submissions were “part of the planning process”.

But Dr Harvie added: "There’s a difference between an applicant submitting minor details like if they have to clarify something.

“What’s happened here is they have submitted five totally new drawings and this 17-page report which is a detailed rebuttal of all of the community’s concerns.”

He added: “It doesn’t feel very democratic.”

The community council was allowed to provide a response to the additional report added in May, but public consultation had finished in March.

The proposed site for the farm is adjacent to a viewing area at the island’s highest point and the core path which is one of the main walks on the island.

It also lies within the Great Cumbrae Special Landscape Area and the Barbay Hill Local Nature Conservation Site.

Dr Harvie added: “If [the council] permit this, you’ve got to ask what do those designations mean?

“If they don’t prevent 15-hectare solar farms, then what do they prevent?

“This is not us saying we are against solar farms or renewable energy.

“We would welcome renewable energy on the island and if solar power is the right way to do that then so be it but what we are saying is that this is the wrong place. This is just not the right place.”   

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Developers have previously said that the site does “not form part of the beauty spot”, its Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment acknowledges there will be a limited effect on more than a tenth (13.5%) of the whole route.

As well as fears over the well-used beauty spot, residents have questioned claims it would help Cumbrae achieve Scottish Government ambitions for carbon neutrality by 2040.

“At no point did they say that that power would be used on the island,” Dr Harvie added. “The idea that it will contribute somehow to the island becoming carbon neutral, well, it just won’t.”

The proposal is expected to be considered at the next North Ayrshire planning meeting on May 24.

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “The additional information provided was in response to matters raised in the public consultation period and by the Community Council.

“Submissions of this nature are part of the planning process and permitted under the regulations governing planning applications.

“All the information submitted will be considered by the Planning Committee when the application is determined.”

Comsol was approached for comment by the Herald.